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What’s the Time Limit to File an Insurance Claim After a Car Accident?

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Time is of the essence after an auto accident. Each insurance company has a car accident insurance claim time limit. Each state imposes its own time limit to file a lawsuit, known as a statute of limitations. How much time you have to file a car accident claim will vary based on these factors.

The popular auto insurance provider Liberty Mutual requires some accident victims to file a car accident claim within 20 days of the collision. Other insurers have less strict reporting requirements

In West Virginia, accident victims have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for property damage and personal injury claims.

How much time you have to file a car accident claim will vary depending on your specific auto insurance policy and the state where your accident occurred. If you’re uncertain about how much time you have left to file a car accident claim or are unsure how the accident claims process works, keep reading to learn how a personal injury attorney can help.

How Much Time Do You Have to File an Insurance Claim After a Car Accident?

Every car insurance company has some verbiage dictating how much time you have to file an insurance claim after an accident. Most insurance companies imply you should file “as soon as possible” or “immediately,” but rarely stipulate a specific car accident insurance claim time limit. Realistically, you have one to six years from the collision date to file a personal injury or property damage claim, but you should file sooner rather than later.

An auto insurance company would prefer for you to file a car accident claim at the scene of the accident or within 24 hours from the car crash. While significantly delayed claims of one or two years might be suspicious, insurance companies must allow for a bit of wiggle room in the claims time limit since certain injuries and property damage may not be seen right away.

Despite this grace period, accident victims should not hesitate to file a police report as quickly as possible. In most states, accident victims are legally required to contact the authorities and file a police accident report right away if there’s any property damage or someone has been injured or killed.

What Happens if You Don’t Report a Car Accident or Miss the Filing Deadline?

You cannot receive compensation for accident injuries or property damage if you do not report a car accident to your insurance company. Without an accident claim, the insurance company has no way of knowing that you’ve been injured or your vehicle needs repairs.

If you miss the filing deadline, the insurance company will likely deny your accident claim, and the car accident damages will be considered your responsibility. However, if you are within the statute of limitations in your state, you can still file a lawsuit.

You should file a police report as soon as possible after an accident with personal injuries or property damage. In West Virginia, you have five days from the date of the accident to report the incident to the police. Failure to report the accident can negatively impact your insurance claim because insurance adjusters refer to a police report to help determine who was the at fault driver.

Failure to file a police report after an accident with bodily injury or property damage in  West Virginia can result in steep penalties, including:

  • A $1,000 fine
  • One year in jail
  • Temporary license suspension
close up hourglass judge gavel 2

Statutes of Limitations for Accident Claims by State

In addition to a car accident insurance claim time limit, there’s also a car accident lawsuit time limit. This time limit is referred to as a statute of limitations. Each state is responsible for establishing its own deadlines for personal injury and property damage lawsuits.

Look at the following chart for the statute of limitations for accident claims by state and the District of Colombia:

StateBodily InjuryProperty Damage
Alabama2 years2 years
Alaska2 years2 years
Arizona2 years2 years
Arkansas3 years3 years
California2 years3 years
Colorado3 years3 years
Connecticut2 years2 years
Delaware2 years2 years
Florida4 years4 years
Georgia2 years4 years
Hawaii2 years2 years
Idaho2 years2 years
Illinois2 years5 years
Indiana2 years2 years
Iowa2 years5 years
Kansas1 year2 years
Kentucky1 year2 years
Louisiana1 year1 year
Maine6 years6 years
Maryland3 years3 years
Massachusetts3 years3 years
Michigan3 years3 years
Minnesota6 years6 years
Mississippi3 years3 years
Missouri5 years5 years
Montana3 years2 years
Nebraska4 years4 years
Nevada1 year1 year
New Hampshire3 years3 years
New Jersey2 years6 years
New Mexico3 years4 years
New York3 years3 years
North Carolina3 years3 years
North Dakota2 years2 years
Ohio2 years2 years
Oklahoma2 years2 years
Oregon2 years6 years
Pennsylvania2 years2 years
Rhode Island3 years10 years
South Carolina3 years3 years
South Dakota3 years3 years
Tennessee1 year3 years
Texas2 years2 years
Utah4 years3 years
Vermont3 years3 years
Virginia2 years5 years
Washington3 years3 years
Washington, D.C.3 years3 years
West Virginia2 years2 years
Wisconsin3 years3 years
Wyoming4 years4 years

The statute of limitations for an auto accident begins on the date of the crash. In West Virginia, this means you have two years from when the collision occurred to file an accident claim. If a car crash occurred on March 2, 2021, the victim would have until March 2, 2023, to legally file a claim.

Who Should You File Your Claim With?

Who you should file your claim with after an auto accident will vary depending on if the state where the accident occurred was a no-fault state or an at-fault state:

In a no-fault state like Florida, each driver’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance covers their own medical bills and property damage, up to $10,000. An accident victim will file an injury claim against their own insurance first before going after the at-fault driver.

In a fault state like West Virginia or Texas, an accident claim should be filed with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The at-fault driver’s bodily injury (BI) liability insurance will cover the victim’s medical bills, and the driver’s property damage liability will cover property damage.

In West Virginia, the at-fault driver compensates the car accident victim for their injuries and property damage. If you were at little or no fault for a recent accident, you should file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. If you exchanged insurance information at the scene of the accident, your insurance company could file with the at-fault driver’s company for you.

If the other driver doesn’t have insurance or only has very little coverage, you can file a claim with your Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. If you do not have PIP coverage, check if you have a similar coverage called medical payments (MedPay) in your auto insurance policy. MedPay can be used to cover the injury costs for you and your passengers after a wreck.

senior man insurance agent claim process after car crash

How to File a Claim with Your Car Insurance Company

The aftermath of a car accident can be incredibly stressful but filing an auto insurance claim with your car insurance company is fortunately not as difficult. Once you’re physically able to contact your insurance company, you can initiate the claims process over the phone or through the claims center portal on your company’s website.

When you file with your auto insurance company over the phone, you will be assigned a claims adjuster who will help you through the claim process. Typically, this process involves sharing key details of the accident, including when and where it occurred. You should provide the contact and insurance policy information for the at-fault driver, as well as the police report and any images you took at the scene.

Throughout this process, never admit fault or make a recorded statement. There are several things to never say to your insurance company, and prematurely making any conclusions about fault, your injuries, or the cause of the crash are some of them. Simply provide the facts of the case, and the insurance company will begin the claims process for you.

What to Do Before Filing a Claim

There are several important steps to take after an accident before filing an insurance injury claim. If possible, you should gather the contact information of the other driver(s) and any witnesses at the scene of the accident, along with images of the crash site. You should write down the responding police officer’s name and learn how you can acquire the official accident report.

In terms of documentation, gather items such as the at-fault driver’s:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Insurance company
  • Insurance policy number
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Vehicle make and model

Before you contact your insurance company to file a claim yourself, consider obtaining a car accident attorney first.

The experienced attorneys at The Miley Legal Group are incredibly knowledgeable on how to speak with claims adjusters, so they won’t run the risk of saying anything that can be used against you and your injury claim. If you’ve already filed an injury claim, still contact an attorney before agreeing to any settlement.

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help with Your Claim

There are several details to keep straight after a car accident, from auto insurance policy requirements to state-specific statute of limitations. . This includes what not to say when filing personal injury claims. Rather than suffer through this process alone, seek the help of a qualified car accident lawyer who can argue for fair compensation after a car crash.

An attorney will not let you settle for the bare minimum compensation the insurance company is bound to offer. Instead, they will gather all documentation necessary, like medical expenses and costly vehicle repairs, to form a solid case against the at-fault driver. They will negotiate with the insurance company and file a lawsuit if necessary to help you recieve what you’re owed.

A car accident can incur steep costs, but you don’t need to struggle with hefty medical expenses and repair shop bills alone. Remember, time is of the essence to file personal injury and property damage claims. Contact The Miley Legal Group today for a free consultation and learn how we can help.

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Written by
Tim Miley
Tim Miley is the founder of The Miley Legal Group. After earning his undergraduate degree in finance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, Tim attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Tim is admitted to practice in all courts in West Virginia and is currently a member of the American Association for Justice, the West Virginia American Association for Justice, the West Virginia Bar Association and the Harrison County Bar Association.
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Our writers only gather information from credible sources. This includes peer-reviewed medical journals, reputable media outlets, government reports, court records, and interviews with qualified experts.